This week, Bryan Singer was officially announced to direct [X-Men: Apocalypse](movie:1194267), showing that his recent legal troubles would not be preventing his return to the franchise. Personally, I was thrilled at the news. I love what he has done with the last two films, and I feel like there is a grand vision starting to unfold here that I want to see come to fruition.
Now that we know he is on board, and with production starting at the beginning of next year, it's time to begin that favorite fan-game; speculation! Who is going to appear in this newest instalment, and why? Obviously, we know very little at the moment, but guesswork is a favorite pastime of mine, and as new information comes to light, it's just more clues in a guessing game to me!
So lets start with the stuff that we absolutely know; that the big threat to Xavier and his team in the 80s is going to be Apocalypse and his Horsemen. But which Horsemen? Any fan knows that there have been a wide range of characters to hold a place on that team over the years, so which four are going to come into play? Just to complicate the question further, each of the three main teams of Horsemen has included one very famous mutant who is also rumored to be appearing in the film; Angel/Archangel, Wolverine, and Gambit.
It's possible that the creators will simply use the existing source material as inspiration, and create a brand-new team consisting of whoever they so please, but I doubt it. The franchise has been moving more and more toward accurate depictions of the comic books, and the re-set of Days of Future Past seemed to be done purposely to wipe clean the less-than-accurate portrayals of the first few movies. It wouldn't make a lot of sense to go buck-wild with the existing information right now, so I believe that we will be seeing a specific team.
Gambit, while he may (and I hope will) appear in the film, should not appear as a Horseman. His involvement is far too tied up with M-Day, and comes at a much later point in the timeline (which is, admittedly, kind of all over the place at the moment). As the re-introduction of a character who has thus far only had a cameo, and who is slated to get his own solo film soon, it would also make little sense to bring him in on the "bad guy" team right off the bat. No, I think that Gambit will make an appearance to help the X-Men, not as a major player from the start.
Wolverine was my initial assumption for Death when I saw the post-credits scene that teased Apocalypse, but now I'm not so sure. When we last saw Wolverine (in this timeline, rather than the glimpse into the future where he is back at the school with Jean and Scott), he was sans-adamantium and being spirited away by Mystique. The assumption is that this is where the Weapon X project comes in in some shape or form, transforming his bone-claws into the weapons we know so well. It is possible that we could see a combination of the two stories - Weapon X and Apocalypse, but I feel like that would be a little much to cram into a couple of hours. Of course, it's also possible that the film starts post-project, and the intervening years are explained in flashback or direct storytelling, allowing Wolverine to go ahead and take up the mantle of Death.
That said, I still doubt it. Wolverine has been the jewel in the X-Men crown for the past fourteen years, playing a major role in almost every film (thank you, First Class, for breaking that pattern), and the fans are starting to get antsy. It's time to see another character take the limelight, and I feel that the higher-ups on the creative team are aware of that, and will use someone else as the primary horseman.
The other main issue with Wolverine as Death is that the rest of that team are also fairly big names within the X-Men universe. Deathbird (with her links to Bishop), Caliban, Ahab, it would all just get a little too complicated a little too fast. Admittedly, the writers have never shied away from introducing huge numbers of new characters in a single movie, but we already saw so many in the last two, I feel like that deluge just has to slow down at some point. Bringing in Apocalypse, Gambit, some re-cast members of the original team and presumably doing some more character building on many of the characters in First Class and DoFP, and possibly even getting a little Cable in there, leaves little room to introduce three more big names.
It makes far more sense to go for the original team, both in terms of characters and timeline. Three of the four initial horsemen are not big players in the Marvel Universe, which gives the writers some room to play and connect them to whichever stories they choose, and doesn't leave them hampered by too much source material. Seeing Plague, Abraham, Autumn and Warren just makes the most sense to me. The timeline fits as well; Abraham was a Vietnam vet, and we got a little glimpse of some of the mutants (including Havok) being taken from the war zone by Mystique. Angel is admittedly slightly off in terms of timeline, but courtesy of the DoFP reset, it's been revealed that past characters could be born at different times (hint hint). There is nothing to stop them changing Angel's age, and bringing him in as the "big name" horseman.
It would also be incredible to see the Angel storyline because of it's connections to Bobby/Iceman. He is a character who has been around since the beginning, and there is no reason to think that he could not be another re-cast. Now that Kitty Pryde is a much bigger player in the live-action universe, I think that it's about time to see that relationship begin, and what better way to show it than a dramatic "death" scene? Which, while we're at it, paves the way for Rogue (hopefully a re-cast Rogue) to meet Gambit, who we all know is destined to be with her.
Which leaves us with one last piece of the speculation game to play...who should play them? I've also posted my personal fan-cast for Rogue, Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey here, but who should take on a younger Iceman, Angel, Plague, Autumn and Abraham?
Bobby/Iceman - Austin Butler
I'll be honest, I actually really like the current casting of Shawn Ashmore, and he looks no-where near his thirty-four years. However, if everyone else is changing, he should too. Austin Butler is a great option for Iceman, and to be honest, my one fault with Ashmore is that I would like to see an Iceman with sharper features and lighter hair.
Angel/Death - Hunter Parish
After his rise to fame in Weeds, Hunter Parish deserves to take on something bigger, and I think that he not only has the perfect look for Warren Worthington, but the skills to play the conflicted Angel-as-Death role.
Abraham/War - Jason Statham
It's hard to get past the bowl haircut that we have always seen, but lets give it a shot. Vietnam vet (probably late 30s to late 40s at this point), the casting has to be slightly grizzled, fairly muscled and look the part of the bitter ex-soldier. An older actor would be great to balance out younger re-cast versions of the originals, and Statham certainly has the action-movie chops.
Plague/Pestilence - Tilda Swinton
This is a character with almost endless possibilities. Originally an old woman and Morlock, in the animated series she was portrayed significantly younger, and the only really important elements are that she be a) female and b) somehow convey poisonousness. Who better than the excellent villainess, Tilda Swinton? Past mistress of the poisonous look, I think she would be an awesome new take on the horseman Pestilence.
Autumn/Famine - Kiera Knightly
It's a tough job, casting for a character who is incredibly thin and bony, without offending half the internet. But lets face it, Kiera Knightly actually suits the part. Give her some careful makeup to make that usually gorgeous face gaunt and hollow, and accentuate her naturally bird-like frame, and we have the perfect Famine, with a big name for the film.
What do you think? Who will we see as the Horsemen, and who should play them? Comment and let me know!